On the day before Passover my friend Liz arrives with her granny cart filled with chametz. (I want that granny cart: it has a smooth ride, is easy to turn, and has thick padding on the handlebars. Liz says it's from Costco.) Our refrigerator and pantry are filled with leaven-tainted items ranging from potato starch to pasta to a quart of soy sauce. There's a box of chocolate pudding mix (a novelty here), flour, a bottle of vanilla extract, nuts, Cheerios, bulgur wheat, half a bottle of Pinot Grigio, frozen chicken broth, one frozen salmon cake, a large quantity of mustard, and (for some reason) an unopened box of matzoh. We love matzoh.
I wish Liz a good Pesach. She wishes me a happy Easter. There's wonderful symbolism somewhere in this annual passing-on of Liz's chametz, but I'm not sure what it is, and instead choose to rest in the pleasure that a friend has given me what she cannot use.
As I had my "quiet coffee" at 5:30 a.m., I mentally made my to-do list for the day: finish Eldest's financial aid forms (essential), write two more pieces for DG 2014 (due Monday), begin editing a master's thesis on music therapy (draft due Monday), write my April posts for Seeds of Devotion (at least one by Monday), and go grocery shopping/clean the house/prepare for Easter dinner. And oh, right -- it's Good Friday.
Tell me that's all going to happen.
I look at my impossible list and the first thing that pops to mind is that church is not technically required. But a voice in my head whispers, You say that you put faith first. Do you? I wince and wrench my attention away from the gotta-get-it-dones, thinking that Martha and Mary must've squabbled a lot as kids. I re-organize my day around having 2:45-5pm free.
That settled, I write a blog post and head out to Trader Joe's. It's a train ride away. En route I read a bit of The Hare With Amber Eyes, a quirky book about the Ephrussi family and its collection of 264 netsuke. It's not devotional reading, but I don't feel compelled to force-feed my heart. I know where my day is centered.
* * * * *
Home again, I ask my two youngest to dust the living and dining rooms. I ask with hidden trepidation; I expect a battle. To my surprise, the kids cooperate cheerfully. They ask if they can put on some music and I say okay, thinking they'll choose something upbeat. It turns out that the disk already in the CD player is Mozart. The kids are surprised, but leave it on. I work with a smile, liberated from the oppression of feeling I am alone in my housecleaning.
* * * * *
Same day: Dancer asks, patiently, for about the 80th time, when she can open a bank account. I look at the clock and agree to take her. On the way out the door I remember to bring the medical form that needs to be notarized. In 30 minutes we have finished at the bank and are home. Good call: I check off two things I'd forgotten were on my to-do list.
I head to church. It is, fittingly, on top of a large hill. As I trudge up, I remember I need to make a lab appointment for Big Guy. Miraculously, the number to the lab is in my cell phone, and a few minutes later I have checked yet another forgotten item off my to-do list.
I am caught off-guard by the intimacy of venerating the cross, and cry.
Up at dawn, I write my pieces for DG 2014, make pesto with which to marinate Sunday's lamb, and clean out space in the refrigerator for leftovers-to-come. The day is given over to housecleaning and baking, but I manage to slip in a quick review of the master's thesis.
In the evening, Dancer and Snuggler and I head downtown to go to the Easter Vigil. We go to the church where Eldest used to sing in the youth choir, knowing the music will be splendid and the preaching good. It is curious to stand on the street in the middle of the theater district as the Paschal candle is lit; tour buses pass, neon flashes, and people rush to get to their shows.
Indoors, during the blessing of the candle they sing:
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands…I grin at the bees but I muse, A candle's a pretty lame gift to sing about! And then I'm caught up short by the thought that everything we can give is pretty lame. I mean, we're talking about the God of all creation, who made the distant stars and amoebas and green peppers, the God who created everything. What could we possibly give that's worth anything? When I look at it that way, a candle is as meaningful as anything else, because the only way it has any significance is because we're dedicating it to God, and He can transform its meaning.
The house is miraculously clean, but then the tub backs up with black crud, curtailing morning showers. I figure none of our dinner guests will be using the bathtub; this problem can be solved at a later date. We have another family coming over (three kids), our beloved Miss Dober (godmother to a couple of my children) and a homeschooling friend whose kids are away with her ex-husband for the holiday. With 13 people to seat, Andrew goes to a neighbor to borrow chairs.
We have a fabulous dinner, with Dancer's ginger spice cake and lime tarte for dessert. Everyone gets along. Our guests laugh and seem to enjoy themselves. I am ridiculously happy: happy to be able to share this most wonderful day and to offer others hospitality. I feel free. This is the first time in eight years that Big Guy has been stable enough for us to invite guests in quantity. I take this luxury -- the extravagance of being able to bring people into my home -- and tuck it in my heart to treasure on days when life is more limited.
We call Eldest and wish her a happy Easter. I wish you one, too.